The Traditional organisation of the Gonja Kingdom has been touted as one of the best in the Northern part of Ghana. Indeed the Founder of the Gonja Kingdom Sumaila Ndewura Jakpa established a democracy that marveled the white colonialists. There is an Executive, a Council of State, an Army, a Constitution which stipulates a healthy succession at all levels.
Indeed there are traditional, customary and legal procedures to follow on the death of a King and Overlord (Yagbonwura) of the Gonja Kingdom.
The Chief of Sonyo (Sonyowura) plays the most important and crucial role with regards to the transition and succession of a Yagbonwura.
The Sonyowura, according to Gonja custom and Tradition, becomes the Acting Head of State on the death of a Yagbonwura and he administers the affairs of the Gonja Kingdom until a new Yagbonwura is selected. The Sonyowura is also responsible for most of the traditional, customary and legal procedures to follow on the death of a Yagbonwura.
The exceptions are that the Sonyowura can never ascend the Yagbon skin and he cannot give a title to any Chief for a higher Chieftaincy position like a Paramount Chief in the absence of a Yagbonwura. The Sonyowura’s reign as Acting Head of State ends the very moment a new Yagbonwura is enskined and quickly retires to his Sonyo Community.
On the death of a Yagbonwura, the Sonyowura firstly informs the Nlusah (diviners) of Mankuma a community near Bole because they must perform certain secret customary rites, before the funeral of the deceased Yagbonwura is formally announced.
After that the Sonyonwura sends the deceased Yagbonwura’s horse, unsaddled, together with his staff and sandals to the Buipewura to announce the death of the King.
On the receipt of the formal notification, the Buipewura will inform the Kagbapewura of Buipe of the Yagbonwura’s death.
In the Gonja Kingdom the role of regents of a Yagbonwura or any other Chief are for the purpose of the funeral processes only. A Regent (Wurkon-nyin) who must be the biological son of a late Yagbonwura is appointed and installed on the Yagbonwura’s death but his main function is in connection with the funeral. The Regent is however given the reverence that is due to the Yagbonwura and he is discharged after the performance of the twelfth day funeral of his father. In Gonja anyone who serves as Regent of a prominent Chief is usually given a Chieftaincy title after serving as a Regent.
Now on the burial of a Yagbonwura, it is the duty and responsibility of the people of Jentilipe (a community near Sawla) to cut the buttress of a silk-cotton tree and carve it into a bier on which the body is carried to Mankuma for burial. It is the duty and responsibility of the blacksmiths in Sawla to forge nails for nailing the bier to the body in the position and make it easy for its conveyance to Mankuma. It is also the duty and responsibility of the Nluseh (diviners) of Mankuma (a Community near Bole) to dig the grave and bury the deceased Yagbonwura at the Gonja Royal Mausoleum at Mankuma.
In modern times, Ghana’s Parliament approved customary laws on the line of succession of 11 traditional areas including the Gonja Traditional Area in 2010. The codification of the customary laws on succession provides the needed guiding principles to deal with chieftaincy of the Traditional Areas concerned.
The key provisions of the instruments include succession and system of inheritance, election or selection of candidates to stools and skins, Kingmakers, destoolment or de-enskinment and autonomy of stools and skins in accordance with section 51 of the Chieftaincy Act 2008 (Act 759).
A legislative instrument (Declaration of Customary Law (Gonja) Traditional Council Instrument, 2010) gave effect to the recommendations of the Gonja Traditional Council on the 23rd day of March, 2010.
This document is the alpha and omega on the succession, election or selection of a candidate to the Yagbon Skin on the demise of a Yagbonwura.
The Declaration of Customary law states; “Succession to the Yagbon Skin of the Gonja Traditional Area shall be by the patrilineal system of inheritance.
It further states; “Succession to the Yagbon Skin of the Gonja Traditional Area shall be strictly rotatory among the Chiefs of the five gates of the Gonja state”, that is, “Wasipewura, Kpembewura, Bolewura, Tuluwewura and Kusawguwura” in order of seniority.
Notwithstanding this strict rotation system, a Paramount Chief occupying a gate to Yagbon throne could be disqualified based on some factors and in the event of a disqualification the skin moves to the next gate. In Gonja ailments like stroke, blindness, amputation of an arm or leg to the big toe or big finger are automatic disqualification reasons. When a Chief in such a situation is already occupying a title other than a higher title, it serves as a terminal limit for him even when he is due for promotion or elevation.
There have been instances in the Gonja Kingdom in which the strict rotation to the Yagbon throne could not be followed mostly for reasons of sickness by those succeeding.
In recent times Kpembewura Ababio Jawula could not ascend the Yagbon throne in 1975 after the demise of Yagbonwura Awusi Ewuntomah Bunyangso (1943-1975) from Wasipe, because he was indisposed so it passed on to Yagbonwura Mahama Abutu Kurabaso (1975- 1982) from Bole but returned to Kpembe after the demise of Kurabaso in 1982.
Kpembewura J.A. Braimah became Yagbonwura Timu (I) after Kurabaso and ruled from 1983 to1987.
After Timu came Yagbonwura Ewur Bunyanso Kanyiti (1987-1990) from Tuluwe and then followed by Yagbonwura Iddi Jakpa Bi-Awuribe (1990 -1992) from Kusawgu completing the cycle of five (5) gates.
The rotation began again with Yagbonwura Saaka Issah Aliadengi Tikpiri I (1992 -1993) from Wasipe.
After Yagbonwura Aliadengi Tikpiri from Wasipe passed on in 1993 Kpembewura Bawa Abudu Doshie should have ascended the Yagbon throne per the order of seniority and rotation of the the five gates, but this was a period of the Northern Conflicts with East Gonja engulfed in this conflict leading to the death of many of the children of the Kpembewura Doshie.
He therefore relinquished the Yagbon throne to Bolewura Amantana Mahama to enskin as Yagbonwura Borenynche (1993 to 1999).
Borenyinche predeceased the then Kpembewura Bawa Doshie, paving way for he (Doshie) to ascend to the throne he earlier relinquished to the Bolewura who is supposed to be his younger brother. He ruled from 2000 to 2010.
On the demise of Yagbonwura Bawa Abudu Doshie in 2010, the fourth gate (Tuluwe) was to take over unfortunately Tuluwewura Afin Nnase could not ascend the throne because he was indisposed so it moved to the occupant of the fifth gate, the Kusawguwura who enthroned as Yagbonwura Sulemana Jakpa Tuntumba Boresa (I) but with the understanding backed by documentation that it goes back to Tuluwe should Tuluwe be occupied by a Chief that is qualified when the Yagbon Skin becomes vacant.
So all things being equall, Tuluwewura Soale Mbema Borenyi who was enskinned as Tuluwewura on 21st April, 2020 is the “next Yagbonwura” even though the Customary Law is expected to be strictly followed.
The Tuluwera will end the cycle of five gates that ascends the Gonja Paramountcy after which the first gate Wasipe (Daboya) begins another cycle.
According to the Declaration of Customary Law (Gonja Traditional Council Instrument, 2010), the Sonyowura shall nominate a new occupant to the Yagbon Skin and present him to the other Kingmakers for their approval. The Kingmakers of the Yagbon Skin of the Gonja Traditional Area shall be the Sonyowura (Head of the Kingmakers), Damongowura, Choriwura, Debrewura, Mankpangwura, Kulawwura, Kpansheguwura, Nsuawura, and Busunuwura.
The Declaration of Customary Law further states that; “Nomination by the Sonyowura and approval by the other Kingmakers shall be done after the third day funeral rites but before the seventh day funeral rites of the deceased Yagbonwura and that “after the performance of the seventh day funeral rites of the deceased Yagbonwura, the Sonyowura together with the other Kingmakers shall meet at the Traditional Council Office at Damongo where they shall make known to Chiefs of the five gates their choice for succession to the Yagbon Skin for their comments”.
The Declaration of Customary Law also says; “The election and selection of a successor to a deceased Yagbonwura shall be done a day after the performance of the seventh day funeral rites of the late Yagbonwura in the morning at the Yagbonwura’s Palace” and that “The twelfth (12th) day funeral rites performance of the late Yagbonwura shall be performed by the Yagbonwura-elect as custom demands.
On the installation of a new Yagbonwura the Customary Law states that; “The Chief-elect shall be enskinned on a day suitable to him after the performance of the twelfth day funeral rites of the late Yagbonwura and the enskinment shall be by the Kagbapewura at Nyange. The Kagbapewura shall first be informed of the date by the Sonyowura through the Buipewura”.
The Declaration of Customary Law further made it clear that; “The Yagbonwura’s enskinment shall be said to be consummated when the new Yagbonwura has been kept in confinement as tradition demands for a number of days depending on the new Yagbonwura’s wish”.
The Gonja Traditional Council Instrument, 2010 further states; “After the candidate is elected or selected the Sonyowura shall inform the Buipewura through the Nsuawura”.
On behalf of OneMuzikGh.Com, we share our heartfelt condolences to the Gonja Kingdom and the entire Gonjaland for this grave lost.
May His Royal Majesty, Yiram, Yagbonwura Sulemana Jakpa Tuntumba Boresa (I) rest peacefully under the bossom of his maker!